Summer Reading Bonanza
Since summer has leached away my ability to accomplish tasks in a prompt or timely manner (I DON’T REGRET IT), my early summer idea to post a list of the books I read over break was snapped up by fellow blogger Victoria “Shakespeare” Barner. Undeterred, however, I’m pressing on for your sake, readers. Here are some of my reading highlights from this summer!
Here’s Looking At Euclid – Alex Bellos
First, if you’re a fan of math, you’ll love the interesting numerology, math history and cool facts throughout this study of numbers and number psychology. What’s really engaging about this book, however, is that if you’re not a fan of math, you’ll love it anyways! Bellos moves from an Amazonian tribe that can only count to five to the inventor of Sudoku, from Euclid‘s derivation of nearly every mathematical fact with a few simple rules to the math of origami – Every chapter is full of interesting facts, but it reads like an engaging story rather than a math text. Definitely an inspiring book for before your first calculus test!
The Snake Eaters – Owen West
After the American invasion of Iraq, the controversial decision to disband the Iraqi Army ejected thousands of soldiers and officers, leaving the gaps to be filled by vast numbers of barely trained and under-experienced Iraqis. The American response to this issue was to deploy small teams of counterinsurgency advisers – The Snake Eaters is about one of these teams. Made of seven reservists with next to no counterinsurgency experience, the adviser team known as “Outcast” was deployed to one of the most dangerous towns in Iraq. The book could get a little military-technical at times (lots of acronyms), but the perspectives offered on the kinds of issues faced in today’s environment of insurgency and the sacrifices made by the small group of Americans are both valuable and stunning.
Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
Victoria mentioned a Malcolm Gladwell book in her blog about summer reading, and after reading Outliers, I fully intend to read all his other works! Gladwell posits that our standard ideas of success and the people who we consider successful are flawed. Rather than being simply a result of some genius or unique skill that certain people have, success is made possible by a number of environmental factors. (I read some reviews of the book, and some claimed that the conclusions were demoralizing or depressing. I find it quite the opposite – the idea that any person is capable of achieving success without having some genetic predisposition seems quite heartening to me!) While some of the statistical premises are a little shaky, the anecdotes and the Freakonomics-like conclusions are fun and thought-provoking. Perfect for keeping your brain working during summer!
It’s definitely nice to pack some reading into my spare time, because classes can make it difficult to read as much as I’d like during the semester. Since reading for pleasure relaxes me, though, I always try to make a little time in the evening to get a few pages in. Remember to make time to do something that’ll keep you sane during the year!
P.S. For more pictures of really cool people reading, Awesome People Reading.